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Mine Vs. Yours - Border disputes between Assam & neighbouring states

02 Feb,2022 06:58 PM, by: Pooja Dasgupta
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Border disputes have never been exclusive to Northeast India, or India with its neighbouring countries, for that matter. From what we have known based on the several issues arising out of ‘mine vs. yours’ territories across the globe, there will always be a possibility of a clash/tension wherever border issues are concerned; irrespective of the nation or continent.

In this context, the inter-state border issues in Northeast India, primarily between Assam and its neighbouring states have long contributed to a complex problem for the residents and authorities pertaining to these disputed areas. The history of these disputes dates back to the undivided Assam of the colonial era, and the separation of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh from Assam, as standalone states, following the independence of India.

Looking back at the circumstantial formation of the 7 states in Northeast India, one can concur that it was bound to ignite tensions related to land rights, especially in regions bordering two states. If we take the matter of border disputes between Assam and Mizoram, several clashes have erupted, leading to deaths and injuries over the years. In one instance, residents of Lailapur village in Assam’s Cachar district and residents of Vairengte in Mizoram’s Kolasib district had been resorting to violence over multiple reasons (latest dispute reported in Oct 2021), but with one grassroot level issue - confusion over the actual demarcation. The long-standing dispute in this border area stems from two different notifications - one of 1875 (followed by Mizoram), separating the Lushai Hills (present-day Mizoram) from Cachar plains, and the other issued in 1933 (followed by Assam) which demarcates between Lushai Hills and Manipur.

Similar clashes between Assam and its other neighbouring states like Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya have familiar roots dating back to colonial times. Several attempts were made in the past to resolve these issues. However, the underlying problems hardly found any resolution, and multiple suggestions to address the same kept facing rejections.

While the concerned Govt. bodies have their respective narratives to fall back on, the actual brunt of these disputes is faced by the local dwellers in the border areas from both states. One-sided reporting by journalists also forms a major part of the problem. On one hand, the rest of us wake up to yet another clash being highlighted in the media; whereas, on the ground, innocent people are caught up in a crossfire due to the inability of respective Governments to solve these long-standing border issues.

In a recent unfolding of events, Assam and Meghalaya seem to have reached a consensus involving 6 of the 12 disputed areas. Although still on paper, if these 6 disputed border areas are able to find successful resolutions, it could hold the key to the rest of the border disputes that Assam has with the other Northeastern states. Assam Chief Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma has been in talks lately with Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Pema Khandu to find a resolution regarding the Assam-Arunachal border issues as well.

It is to be noted that recent inter-state talks have hinted at positive reforms that are likely to take place. But the concerned Governing bodies must proactively act on this, before it turns to an obsolete solution, leaving the people on border areas to continue fighting over the lingering disputes. In addition to it, if resolutions are not met soon, development work in the northeastern region will also come to a halt. The recent dispute over the ongoing construction of the Likabali-Durpai PMGSY road in Arunachal’s Lower Siang district has caused hindrances in the development work, as Assam claimed that some parts of the road fall in its Dhemaji district. Similar issues have taken place in the past and are bound to erupt in the future as well if the border disputes are not resolved.

Having said that, if the resolution between the Assam-Meghalaya border disputes goes through smoothly, it will be a milestone achieved and will offer key insights in solving the complex history of Northeast India.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Critical Script or its editor.

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